The suprising history of dairy subsitutes

I’ve often heard the complaint that dairy subsitutes are imitations, a mockery of the real thing. So I looked up the history of it. I was rather suprised by what I found.

I kid you not, Almond milk was a staple of medieval cooking. We can thank the church for setting some pretty hefty dietary restrictions on people. Not to mention without refrigeration milk had to be used immediately, along with being seasonal.

Nut milk on the other hand, could simply be prepared as needed. Obviously it was rather expensive, available only to the nobility and the sick. but it was a staple ingredient. The leftover meal or ‘curd’ could also be used as a thickener in soups or made into cheese. Almond flour is old!

Still, I won’t deny that most store bought alternatives are little more than flavoured water, often containing as little as 2% almonds with additives.

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to make your own! I gave it a try. (soak them overnight first)

“Take peeled almonds, crush very well in a mortar, steep in water boiled and cooled to lukewarm, strain through cheesecloth and boil your almond milk on a few coals for an instant or two.”
– Le Viandier de Taillevent

I’m not usually one to get excited, But it’s sooo creamy! (It’s 25% almonds) It even forms skin like cows milk. Sadly it’s quite expensive and a bit tedious-on a budget you’re propably better off with coconut milk. Though I have seen Nut Mylk pastes for sale.

I just find it interesting the way such products are percieved by many as imitations or “vegan food”, when they stand on their own quite well.

Say, I’d been craving a creamy sauce. Being allergic to dairy, I found a great alternative-chickpea flour! just mix with water, salt and oil. To be honest I don’t get why coconut and almond flour are so popular. With chickpea flour you don’t even need eggs! It binds to itself. Flatbreads, cakes, pizza… The possibilities are endless! Just remember the flour needs to soak overnight in water.

It’s full of protein, iron, magnesium, the list goes on. Such a versatile ingredient.

You can even make cheese from nuts or pulses quite easily. After all, what makes something cheese? Cheesemaking is a process of adding acid while heating, then letting the liquid drain, leaving curd behind. The kind of curd doesn’t matter. Even soy curd (tofu) is cheese.

To be honest, I could say the same about avoiding wheat. If one does a little research, It turns out that until nitrate fertilisers came around, it wasn’t even that widely cultivated in europe! It was introduced from asia much later. Oats, buckwheat, millet, Teff, rye, among others were grown in abundance till very recently.

To be honest, I don’t really miss it. I’ve grown rather fond of buckwheat. It might seem new, but kasha has been a staple dish in eastern europe for centuries.

So if someone gives you a hard time because your body reacts poorly to these ingredients, it’s not that you are weak or broken. There is nothing strange about it. We’ve been making nut milk for centuries!

History of Almond milk

Boltere of Almand Melk (Almond butter/ Cheese)

Chickpea tofu (Burmese)

Now go, And Serve it Forth!

Be Well.


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